At the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, Toyota unveiled what it calls the i-ROAD. It is a three-wheeled, electric-powered vehicle that could be the future of transportation.
The concept is Toyota’s response to heavier and expensive EV vehicles that aren’t any better at moving through cities. This three-wheeled concept can zip through busy streets and help relieve congestion thanks to its size. Officially, Toyota calls it a “personal mobility vehicle.”
Toyota’s i-ROAD is just 33.5 inches wide, 56.9 inches high and 92.5 inches long. Those dimensions make it half the width of a Smart Fortwo Electric Drive and Toyota says the i-ROAD is no wider than a two-wheeler.
It is capable of transporting two passengers that sit in tandem and it protects these occupants from the weather using a fully enclosed body. Toyota says that because it is fully enclosed, no helmet is required.
The real innovation of this concept is in the i-ROAD’s self-righting front-wheel Active Lean technology. This system uses a geared actuator affixed to each of the front wheel’s suspension wheels. Car and Driver explains how it works:
A computer manages the degree of lean of each front wheel—as the angle of lean of one wheel increases, the other lowers by the same amount—using steering angle, a gyroscope, and vehicle speed to induce lean in corners or keep the i-ROAD steady at low speeds. The system also can filter out potentially balance-upsetting road imperfections when traveling in a straight line. The i-ROAD is steered using a squircle-shaped steering wheel rather than a set of handlebars.
What’s also interesting is that the i-ROAD is the front-wheel drive setup. Each front wheel features a 2.7-hp in hub electric motor powered by a shared lithium-ion battery. Toyota claims this setup allows it to have a driving range of 30 miles and it needs three hours to recharge using conventional domestic power supplies.
While this concept is a long-shot for production, the ideas developed from building these vehicles can be used in the future. Whether it gets built or not, we know one thing for sure. We WANT a ride!